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Former Republican Legislator: House GOP Caucus Laughed Off Sexual Harassment Complaint Against Abdallah

A member of the 2012 Legislature tells Dakota Free Press that the House Republican caucus responded in during the 2012 Session with joking and derision to Tiffany Campbell’s report to then-Speaker Val Rausch that then-Rep. Gene Abdallah had made a lecherous comment to her.

Patricia Shiery—pronounced /shy-REE/, but then Patricia Stricherz—served as a Republican Representative from District 8 in the 2011–2012 term of the South Dakota Legislature. Shiery says that one day during the 2012 Session, she saw Campbell in the Capitol. Shiery says she wasn’t exceptionally friendly with Campbell, but the District 8 legislator had talked with the lobbyist in the halls more than once. That day, Shiery thought Campbell looked distressed. Campbell asked Shiery if she would step outside for a private chat. Campbell then recounted to Shiery the sexually harassing statements that she says Abdallah made to her at Bob’s Bar.

Shiery recalls that her immediate advice to Campbell that day was to “let it go,” to accept the crude comment as Abdallah’s normal behavior, and not risk any personal or political repercussions. Shiery tells me today she deeply regrets advising Campbell to keep quiet… which Campbell did until going public with her story this year in October when Abdallah received Attorney General Marty Jackley’s nomination to the Board of Pardons and Parole.

Shiery says that, later that same day, when she attended the House Republican caucus, Speaker of the House Val Rausch brought up Campbell’s complaint about Abdallah. Shiery says the caucus laughed, joked, and teased Abdallah about the allegation. No one admonished Abdallah. No one asked Abdallah if he had done what Campbell said he had done. No one engaged in or asked for any sort of inquiry into Abdallah’s conduct.

Shiery says the conversation instead focused on casting doubt on the complaint and minimizing Campbell. Shiery specifically recalls Speaker Rausch saying, “I really don’t know what to think about her.”

Rausch has since told the press, “I know Tiffany, and I recall she came into my office, but I couldn’t tell you what we talked about…. I don’t remember any reports to me of any sexual harassment.”

Abdallah, who sat right behind Shiery in caucus, grumbled and harrumphed a bit during that day’s meeting but made no statement that Shiery recalls. Shiery says the women in caucus that day were quieter.

The caucus then moved on to other business. Shiery didn’t see much of Campbell after that day, and she never heard another word in caucus or at the Capitol about Campbell’s complaint against Abdallah.

Shiery says she got along well with Abdallah in Pierre and “held him in high regard.” Asked if Campbell’s complaint or Abdallah’s coarse, bitter, and personally insulting response to Campbell’s public allegations have changed her mind, Shiery says, “I walk in a different way now” and does not want to speak negatively about anybody. However, Shiery says to Abdallah, “You owe an apology” for both the offense he did in 2012 and for his response now. Shiery says Abdallah has an opportunity to use his strength and intelligence to take responsibility for what he has done and “be an example for men to follow.” Shiery declined to say whether a failure to apologize should disqualify Abdallah from his parole board nomination.

Shiery says she suffered sexual harassment daily in the Army, yet she is “more aware now” of the extent of the problem. Women have suffered too long, grappling in silence with the internal turmoil caused by misogynist abuse of power. Shiery says her friends and family told her not to share this story, not to risk the personal attacks and retribution that women risk in speaking up to powerful, abusive men. But Shiery says that women like her need to speak up now, stand with women like Campbell, and call out the culture of misogyny that exists in the Legislature and throughout our society.

Shiery sees a common thread running from the House Republican caucus’s laughing off the complaint against Abdallah in 2012 and the House Republican caucus’s brushing off of disgraced former Rep. Mathew Wollmann’s abuse of his position in 2015, when he treated Legislative interns like his personal boinking pool.

Shiery says we need more women in Pierre to correct that unhealthy culture. Shiery says she herself plans to run for Legislature again, this time in District 30 for the Senate seat that Lance Russell will leave open as he runs for Attorney General. Shiery says she will run as a Republican… which makes clear that her willingness to call out the House Republicans with whom she has served is not a political ploy but a heartfelt expression of her commitment to standing with Campbell and all women who have suffered sexual harassment.

44 Comments

  1. Curt 2017-12-05 16:14

    This is shocking … not Mr Abdallah’s alleged conduct or the light-hearted dismissal of its significance by his caucus, but the fact that someone has the courage to admit publicly what occurred behind closed doors. Times are changing and the dinosaurs who refuse to adapt will not survive long term.

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-12-05 17:43

    Indeed, Curt. Patricia Shiery provides an important lesson: the secrecy of caucus should not shield bad behavior.

  3. Jenny 2017-12-05 18:19

    Shiery deserves some thanks for finally admitting how she treated Campbell by brushing it off was wrong.
    It all started with Gretchen Carlson standing up to the big boys at FOX and now finally a GOP SD woman has spoken the truth of what really happened in this sexual harassment case and is now onthe right side of history. Never be afraid to speak the truth ladies.

  4. grudznick 2017-12-05 18:27

    Caucus is considered sacrosanct by many, and if this young lady runs again and wins she may find herself ostrichsized. I’m just sayin…

  5. Bob Newland 2017-12-05 18:31

    Val Rausch is a mousy little phrych who never should have had any position of leadership anywhere. It now appears he’s a liar, too. I am shocked.

    As for Abdallah, nowhere but in SoDak would this drunk phough have had any power, let alone the power of life-and-death over any citizen who crossed his erratic stumbling path.

  6. Bob Newland 2017-12-05 18:40

    “Shiery says she will run as a Republican… which makes clear that her willingness to call out the House Republicans with whom she has served is not a political ploy but a heartfelt expression of her commitment to standing with Campbell and all women who have suffered sexual harassment.”

    I think it’s more accurate to say that Shiery is running as a Republican because a Democrat would only get 22 votes in District 30. District 30 elected Lance Russell and Tim Goodwin, fercrissakes!

  7. grudznick 2017-12-05 18:43

    District 30, as my good friend Bob well knows, is insaner than most. Messrs. Russell and Goodwin make Mr. Verchio look sane, for Satan’s sake.

  8. Bob Newland 2017-12-05 18:45

    Grudznick, you piece of dogpuke, your presence in a discussion is as welcome as a piece of liver left in the sun for three days.

  9. grudznick 2017-12-05 18:49

    Ah, yes, Bob reminds me about Ms. Frey-Mueller. She, too, is insaner than most.

  10. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-12-05 20:57

    No comment-section games, please. Ms. Shiery’s story is serious.

    Ms. Shiery recognizes the risk she takes in violating the sanctity of caucus. But if any political machine holds secrecy higher than integrity and respect for women—if, specifically, it would treat revealing a misogynist response to a credible complaint about sexual harassment of one of its members as a more grave offense than sexual harassment—that machine should be dismantled.

  11. Bob Newland 2017-12-05 21:33

    “No comment-section games, please.”

    Right. You let that coward hijack and diminish virtually every discussion, then you come up with that.

  12. Kurt Evans 2017-12-05 21:40

    If “grudznick” treated Cory the way he treats other commenters here, he’d be gone within 72 hours.

    He’s the reason I didn’t comment on the topic of this thread. It’s just not worth it.

  13. Dana P 2017-12-05 22:09

    Clapping for a very brave and courageous Ms Shiery. I never did doubt Ms Campbell’s allegations, and she had alot of credibility just based on what she said and who she said it to. Ms Shiery gives an already believable story, even that much more credibility. AND it puts on log on the “there is a problem in Pierre” fire that just can’t be ignored. (which legislator, a few weeks ago, said that there is no problem in Pierre?) So South Dakota legislators— what will you do? Be part of the solution or continue to be part of the problem?

    And the repeated nagging question to Marty Jackley. Second thoughts about your Abdallah nomination— now?

  14. Stace Nelson 2017-12-05 22:18

    I point out that myself and Senator Lance Russell were not in caucus When this was reportedly discussed: http://rapidcityjournal.com/news/two-state-republican-lawmakers-banned-from-party-caucus/article_8edc5106-4907-11e1-b995-0019bb2963f4.html

    I would remind folks that Val Rausch, & David Lust, lied to the press and claimed I “threatened to kill” a fellow legislator in a retaliatory effort for my previous opposition to their tampering with legislators’ bills in LRC. Recall that Val Rausch claimed he “punished” me by having the governor’s office illegally follow me around the Capitol, violated House rules by refusing to recognize me as required, and moved my chair. All of which violated legislative rules of due process.

    I point out that Mr Rausch was a former life-long Democrat who had one of the worst “Republican” records in the legisalture and only changed parties to Republican right before he ran.

  15. jerry 2017-12-05 23:23

    “a former life-long Democrat” Indeed, Democrats and Independents like to get the weed whacker out to clear toxic out. So then, the party of Roypublicans (named after your new hero, Roy Moore, have old Val lock stock and barrel. That “mousy little phrych” is now a head honcho in the party of Roy. You fellers can keep him, he looks good on you.

  16. Steve Hickey 2017-12-06 01:53

    I was right there in that Caucus and have no memory of this, and I would have considering it involved Tiffany Campbell, a person quite notable to me because of the abortion wars of 2008. Perhaps it happened before or after but I don’t recall it being discussed in any Caucus meeting that year.

    I do believe Campbells story, and have been noisy here on social media that Abdallah was a miserable choice for this post even before Campbell stepped up with his harassments. Hope he isn’t confirmed.

  17. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-12-06 05:42

    Dang—Hickey’s comment poses a problem. One member of caucus says the joking happened, another says he doesn’t recall it. Steve, were you present at caucus every day in 2012?

  18. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-12-06 05:46

    If Hillary Clinton had treated men in the State Department the way Campbell says Abdallah treated her, Republican men would have been screaming about it nonstop until she was forced from office.

  19. Rorschach 2017-12-06 09:07

    The caucus comments about Tiffany Campbell may have registered with Rep. Shiery and not with Rep. Hickey simply because Ms. Campbell had already spoken with Rep. Shiery and the issue was on her mind. I doubt if the topic resulted in any kind of a prolonged discussion in caucus.

    Time Magazine has named the “Me Too” movement as its person of the year. Maybe they should rename their category as topic of the year rather than person. In any event, the ground has shifted. This kind of sexist behavior is much less likely to occur in the future and much more likely to be swiftly punished if it occurs. That’s a good thing. By coming forward, and by providing a safe environment for others to come forward, women have put men on notice that unprofessional and demeaning behavior won’t be quietly tolerated anymore.

  20. Dana P 2017-12-06 10:37

    I really don’t care if Rausch was a republican or past democrat or a man from the moon. (that “past democrat” mud slinging is…..well weird and has nothing to do with this) That he and others (Dems or Repubs) blew off or laughed at the Abdallah allegation (and any OTHER Abdallah allegations) is part of the problem then, in the past, and right now.

    All that is, is tacit approval of bad, inappropriate, and wrong behavior. And THAT is why women (most of the time it is women) have no confidence in reporting things like this.

  21. Patricia Shiery 2017-12-06 11:00

    One of the cruelest things about sexual harassment is the way things are entangled and attempted to be contaminated, how the best things about a person is overshadowed with doubt. The story discredited and actions questioned. Stay silent and you acquiesced to what happened. Come forward and you face unfair consequences and retribution.
    2012 was a highly stressful year in the legislature. There was a lot going on that year, first we had all the drama surrounding the constant attack on Rep. Nelson and Rep. Russell, on top of that there was the highly publicized Governors education bill (HB1234).
    Just because someone doesn’t remember every detail of that year doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen. I hadn’t remembered it until I read Ms. Campbells story. The only reason I remember the short exchange in caucus is because I had just spoke to Ms. Campbell about it and the crass joking just substantiated what I had been told by Ms. Campbell. Honestly, I regret advising her to just let it go. The only reason why I am speaking out now (against the advice and warnings of friends and family) is because I am fed up with how as women, we are ALWAYS advised to stay silent. Hundreds of women are afraid to tell their story out of fear of losing their jobs, public ridicule and shame. We need to take our power back and let our voices be heard. It’s not ok to make lewd sexual innuendos about women. Its not ok to casually touch a woman. And it’s certainly NOT ok to assume that we will not say anything about such negative, degrading behavior.
    How hypocritical is it of men that are in law enforcement, Attorneys and serve in the legislature, the very places that they defend and protect victims, to then engage in sexual misconduct.
    So now let’s flip it around, I don’t remember therefore it did not happen. It’s seems to be far easier to minimize the credibility of one than to acknowledge the possibility of the event that occurred.

  22. Roger Elgersma 2017-12-06 11:31

    The Republican party seems to have a culture that covers up promiscuity. This is shocking considering that they are against abortion. But when Matthew Wohlman felt so comfortable with his promiscuity with subordinates that happened to be young college interns, that he told a news reporter himself, then there obviously had not been any repercussions at all for all his lack of character and lack of integrity. After that happened, they threw out the ethics law and Daugaard and Peters and the leader of the Senate scornfully gave speeches that they were disappointed that anyone had not trusted them. Trump lies with no conscience as well, and Republicans nominated him. This country is clearly past its prime because the corruption level is callously confident. We can not just blame this on republicans since the electoral college put trump in.

  23. Darin Larson 2017-12-06 11:34

    Thank you for speaking out on this issue, Patricia Shiery and Tiffany Campbell. As you are well aware, some people don’t want to hear the truth and they may hold it against you. You are in effect tearing down the last vestiges of the good ol’ boys network, although it was misnamed because it was never good. You both have displayed the courage of your convictions for the betterment of us all. I want my daughters to live in a society of equality and openness, free of harassment and glass ceilings, where their efforts and ideas are evaluated on merit and where their character is what matters, not the happenstance of their gender. I applaud your efforts in that regard and for doing so in the face of personal attacks and potential backlash from ignorant voices.

  24. Bob Newland 2017-12-06 11:37

    Roger, recent history impeaches Democrats as well as Republicans. It’s a societal culture, not a political culture.

  25. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-12-06 13:21

    I second Dana P’s statement. We’re not having this discussion to score political points. We’re not keeping some tally to see which party has more abusers of power. It just so happens that in South Dakota, Republicans have most of the power, and the incidents under discussion here have to do with Republican legislators apparently behaving badly.

    It is worth noting that Senator Nelson led the charge on that proposed ethics rule revision, which finally passed after the Wollmann scandal broke. In that instance, Nelson challenged fellow Republican Wollmann and the Republican leadership.

    And Ms. Shiery still plans to run as a Republican.

    The main question here is who said what, who joked about it, and who failed to take sexual harassment complaints seriously. If the answers is, “Republicans,” that’s not an indictment of a party or a platform, but in this case, it is an indictment of an existing power structure that should be upended and replaced. Replacement could take place by electing a Democratic majority; it could also take place by electing an entirely new crop of Republicans, like Ms. Shiery.

  26. Ryan 2017-12-06 15:22

    I wish we lived in a world where these dirtbags were called out immediately and loudly when they do something vile so they get it that what they are doing is not OK with anybody. I know there are consequences for victims to consider, but hopefully the national attention to this issue makes everyone, everywhere understand that the rest of us want to help – we want to hold people accountable for what they do – so please, keep standing up to the scum, and sooner than later they will be the ones fearing victims who come forward rather than the other way around.

  27. Jenny 2017-12-06 18:10

    MPR says Franken is going to resign his Senate seat tomorrow.

  28. Stace Nelson 2017-12-06 20:43

    My reference to party affiliations was to point out two things. We as a nation are suffering politicians on both sides of the aisle abusing our trust. Secondly, it was a personal indictment of Mr Rausch to high light that he wasn’t a Democrat or a Republican, but the worst type of political opportunist.

  29. Tiffany Campbell 2017-12-06 20:49

    Let me be clear, had a democrat sexually harassed me and I witnessed them drive drunk I would have gone to Rep. Bernie Hunhoff. I thought I was doing the right thing by discreetly telling Rep. Val Rausch. I respected Rep. Rausch, and am completely disgusted that he is lying. He said I spoke to him in his office. I was NEVER in his office. I saw him walk into the Ramkota bar with other republican legislators and said I wanted to speak to him the next day. I changed my mind and asked if I could talk to him privately. We walked into the dining area and discussed what Gene said to me. Had I known that Rep. Rausch was going to laugh it off I would have asked a Dem to be present when I spoke to him. I expected men that I trusted to do the right thing. Their failure to do so hurts me more than Gene’s awful behavior.

  30. jerry 2017-12-06 21:58

    So then, Democrats loose Franken and Conyers and Roypublicans gain Moore, trump and this drunk old perverted fart that likes to watch people pee. Jackley should give the old perv a job at the 24/7 program watching the men fill the cup. What a proud moment for South Dakota and the country itself. That means there is only one thing to do, vote the perverts and those who support them out.

  31. Lora Hubbel 2017-12-06 22:28

    Why just focus on sexual harassment when Pierre is filled with all kinds of harassment? Bullying…flattery…arm twisting… using the system to reward and punish (especially harmful in the hands of people who feel they now have that elusive popularity they never experienced in HS)… declaring themselves above the law since they can so easily change it. Cory if you spend the session in Perre you would not sleep due to all the fodder you would have on idiocy made to look like pomp and circumstance.

  32. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-12-06 22:29

    Tiffany Campbell will extend this conversation on Patrick Lalley’s program on KSOO AM-1000 tomorrow/Thursday afternoon, in the 4:30 p.m. CST segment.

  33. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-12-06 22:40

    (Lora, let’s not confuse hardball political tactics with the rank misogyny carried out only for physical gratification and assertion of power. You suggest many possible important stories, and I welcome details thereupon by e-mail or other channels, but they belong under a separate blog post.)

  34. Lora Hubbel 2017-12-06 23:13

    Cory…why do you think misogyny is purely sexual? That is part of it but I was giving the entire misogynistic MO of Pierre politics…

  35. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-12-06 23:20

    I said no such thing. Tell us a story. Details. Names. Stand up to the system.

    This systemic misogyny appears to be a far greater threat to South Dakota women than Marxists, the Muslim Brotherhood, vaccines…. Let’s work together with Campbell, Shiery, and others to end this real threat.

  36. Patricia Shiery 2017-12-07 16:06

    Cory, I just want to thank you for posting this story and being a key player in the awareness of sexual harassment. This is a sticky subject that has potential to inflame both sides of the aisle. I sometimes think that this is a very hard topic for men to engage in and am so grateful for the positive comments that have been posted here.
    Understanding boundaries is highly important and knowing when a compliment becomes harassment is even more important. Telling a woman, “you look nice today” is a compliment, it changes drastically to harassment with, “nice rack or nice legs.” A married man telling a married woman daily they are “pretty” or “beautiful” is bordering on harassment. Once is acceptable, more than that becomes uncomfortable.
    Bringing sexual harassment out of the darkness and into the sunlight is the best way to stop it. Having these discussions to aid in awareness and understanding important. The more women that speak out, the more other women will speak out.
    Ms. Campbell’s story occurred in a bar, alcohol was involved. Let’s face it….alcohol turns people into jerks! But accountability and a sincere apology would have prevented this story from ever coming into light. Once it did, again the opportunity for accountability and a sincere apology was made available, but instead a nasty, harsh response was given.
    For those that are still doubtful of Ms. Campbells story, remember, she was a lobbyist when this incident occurred. It’s the lobbyist job to convince Legislators to vote favorably, the way her boss had wanted. There is nothing to gain for a lobbyist to alienate the lawmakers she was trying to align herself with and it was even more important to build trusting relationships.
    Creating healthy work environments is necessary, and this can be accomplished with viewing men and women with the same respect.
    Sexual Harassment is against the law, so is retaliation to those that report it under the Fair Labor Standards, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, etc.

  37. jerry 2017-12-07 18:20

    Roypublican Trent Franks stepping down due to sexual harassment. Big lawsuit in the works on this, kinda like that pajama boy Blake Fartandhold from Texas. Taxpayers paid $84,000.00 to settle that harassment claim. Roypublicans play fast and loose with taxpayer money.

  38. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-12-08 09:05

    Patricia, we men do have difficulty discussing this issue. The presence of women in the conversation helps remind us to empathize and behave ourselves.

    The Senate Judiciary Committee as currently rostered is five men and two women. Will they be able to discuss the issue of sexual harassment appropriately?

  39. mike from iowa 2017-12-08 10:07

    t’s the lobbyist job to convince Legislators to vote favorably, the way her boss had wanted. There is nothing to gain for a lobbyist to alienate the lawmakers she was trying to align herself with and it was even more important to build trusting relationships.

    Could relatively unsober congressweasels use this as an excuse to hit on lobbyists? I’m asking for a friend.

    Seriously, I can see them twisting their alcohol infused brains to decide it is okay to …..

    For the record, I do not condone this behavior in anyone.

  40. Patricia Shiery 2017-12-08 10:37

    “The Senate Judiciary Committee as currently rostered is five men and two women. Will they be able to discuss the issue of sexual harassment appropriately?”

    Male dominated workplace cultures with lots of hierarchy, few women integrated in leadership, and cultures of sexism and silence are the most likely places for harassment to be going on. Instead of men in the positions of power promoting other men that have been alleged to have engaged in sexual harassment, taking a stand by denying promotion shows that such behavior will not be tolerated. It also shows women that they are respected, protected and validated when such claims have been made.
    To simply turn a blind-eye and not even acknowledge a complaint made of sexual harassment, sends a very loud message of: You do not matter, what you experienced does not matter, what you are reporting does not matter and bad behavior will be rewarded because cronyism ensures promotion.

  41. Bob Newland 2017-12-09 11:27

    Patricia Shiery does not fit well with current and recent District 30 Republican SoDak state legislators. She appears to be able, consistently, to produce sentences containing a subject, predicate and eloquent articulation of ideas.

  42. Darin Larson 2017-12-09 15:07

    Cory, after Kris Langer tried to put the fix in for the payday loan sharks by creating legislation that would have negated the vote of the people on the issue of 550% interest rates, how can anyone take what she says seriously? She has proven that she will say and do anything to serve the special interests that she works to favor to the detriment of her constituents. To be clear, it is one thing to have a policy debate on the issue, it is quite another to try to carry legislation that would negate the vote of the people.

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